With the networks’ fall skeds rapidly unspooling, music supervisors — facing limited funds and a crush of new episodes each week — are increasingly turning to lesser-known artists for their material.
Music-themed skeins like “Glee,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “American Idol” have naturally become more influential as platforms. But nonmusical scripted shows are also finding ways to make themselves more attractive and boast their distinctive advantages.
As musicians and label execs watch closely from the sidelines, attempting to discern which shows could serve as key platforms for new music, many music supervihave been finding ways to spotlight new or exclusive tracks.
Supervisors are forced to make their selections quickly since turnaround time for securing rights and programming for the new episodes can be extremely short, made worse by the uncertainty over a show’s longterm future.
For Jason Alexander, supervisor for CW’s “Nikita,” selecting the show’s music boils down to a dichotomy between the low-key home life and kinetic spy escapades of Maggie Q’s titular character.
“It has a kick-ass female vibe foremost,” he said, “but we also try to allow her to have her softer side when she’s at home.”
Fulfilling the kick-ass half of the equation, Alexander leans to acts like the hard-edged, femme-fronted the Duke Spirit and Band of Skulls, while Australia’s Sia and Iceland’s Jonsi have been tapped to represent the down moments.
In contrast, NBC’s espionage-themed series “Undercovers” features a more far-flung geographic range. As music supervisor, Charles Scott is tasked with keeping pace with the central spy couple’s travels.
“The show definitely has an international scope, so a lot of foreign-language music works its way in,” Scott said. “So far it ranges from interesting percussion music to Swedish pop and Spanish dance music … It’s usually even written into the scripts that certain scenes won’t feature American music.”
ABC’s “My Generation” has taken a proactive tack, incorporating music into the show’s Web presence. Appropriately enough, music supervisor Melyssa Hardwick also is creative director for the ABC Music Lounge. Web content for the show features free downloads of songs from or inspired by the skein, as well as playlists constructed to represent each character.
Considering that “My Generation” is set both in 2000 and the present day (with appropriate music for both time periods), and that it features a major character who works as a music producer, the show’s structure allows for a plethora of in-show tunes. (Hardwick mentioned that a yet-unnamed real-life band will join the show to portray a fictional rock group later in the season.)
Hardwick described her choices for the show’s music as “very ‘Austin City Limits,’ and very male singer-songwriter-oriented,” citing Band of Horses and Mumford & Sons as representative artists.
The latter band also made a prominent appearance in the pilot for Fox’s “Lone Star,” which looks to be a music-heavy platform.
So far, CW’s “Hellcats” seems to have put a premium on spotlighting new artists, with supervisor David Sibley including tracks in the show’s two aired episodes from such under-the-radar types as Brokedown Cadillac, Gustav, Hot Chelle Rae and Parisian quartet Exsonvaldes.
“I think (the indie aesthetic) really suits the tenor of this particular show, perhaps even better than a teenage, high school-oriented show might,” Sibley said. “In college you have this world of underground bands that exist entirely outside of the mainstream, and we are definitely trying to work that into the milieu of the show.”
Sibley added that he is equally interested in discovering new takes on older music, whether nabbing a contempo remix of Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” or new recordings of tunes by the Box Tops and Sting.
The college cheerleading-themed drama also features a strong purchase functionality, with most of the featured songs available for download on the CW’s site.